EL PASO, Texas -- It took two votes, with several awkward 'no' votes against fellow commissioners, for El Paso County Commissioners Court to select a representative for the El Paso United Covid-19 Response Task Force.
On Tuesday, commissioners discussed whom would be best to represent the county as part of the task force. The group will make recommendations to the city and the county to inform their policy-making.
Two commissioners expressed initial interest in being part of the task force, Commissioners David Stout and Vince Perez. During the discussion, Commissioner Carl Robinson said he would also like to be considered.
"Knowledge, experience. If I don't have it, no one has it," asserted Robinson.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego made the first motion to nominate Commissioner Stout to the position.
Stout said his area of interest lines up closely with the Covid-19 Response Task force and recognized other commissioners' focus: Carlos Leon's interest in law enforcement and labor; Perez' push for criminal justice and finance reform; Robinson's advocacy for veterans and the homeless.
"One of those focus areas for me since I was elected has been health care," rounded up Sout. "It would seem to me very logical for me and my staff to jump into action and start working and having conversations with UMC, with (the) Childrens' Hospital, the health department, private doctors and MCA (Medical Center of the Americas) since I serve on that board," he said.
"My interest… was really in resource cultivation," said Commissioner Perez. "I'm interested only in the initial setup. If after the initial six months Commissioner Stout would like to serve on it I don't have a problem with it."
The court decided against having rotating representatives on the task force.
Then the motion to nominate Stout failed with Judge Samaniego and Sout voting in favor, while Leon, Perez and Robinson voted no.
Samaniego then nominated Perez. That motion passed with Samaniego, Leon and Perez voting yes. Stout also voted yes, but not before taking a swipe at Perez by asking him to be present at most of the meetings instead of sending his staff and being too "busy running his campaign." Stout also asked Perez to be the voice for the Commissioners Court and keep a regional approach to find solutions.
Judge Samaniego echoed that last request.
"It is my understanding that the regional component has become more and more important," Samaniego said. "I don't care what the governor says with 'We just have to move forward, or 'we can just ignore that'…He was very explicit to say that if we waited for Juarez that it would take for us three years to move forward," said the judge. "I'm not asking, obviously, for three years, but the fact that he said that, made that statement really, really focuses on how difficult that situation is that's being projected as something that's going to be very long term but it's almost as if we could ignore it." Samaniego said it's not as a person who is isolated and quarantined after being infected with Covid-19.
The task force will hold its first meeting on Thursday, County Cdministrator Betsy Keller said.